Where does my anger come from?
It goes off at the slightest provocation!
Then more often than not I find myself having to apologize to the target of my anger because I have misunderstood or overreacted. If I had only stopped and reflected before I emotionally responded.
In all of my reading and professional study anger is described as an emotional symptom of fear, part of the flight, fight or freeze response. This is because in a split second I construct an internal narrative about the situation that results in me being so unconsciously afraid that I fight– I lash out with anger.
How is this possible? How can I … how do I come to such catastrophic unconscious conclusions that I find myself yelling at my wonderful husband, or uttering cross words at my grandchildren and children?
I am a bright, articulate woman who deals the disastrous outcomes of human emotions on a daily basis as a social worker, yet I am hard pressed to understand the source of my own unconscious anger.
Jeffery Brantley M.D. in the October 2013 edition of Mindfulness provided a key to understanding unconscious fear – it is fueled by a “fixed belief” (p 74). A ‘fixed belief’ is an idea or truth that has been held for so long and acted on so repeatedly that we respond to the it without consciously thinking about it.
Taking control of this belief and understanding when it is false and when it is true pulls us away from the trigger of our anger. It is also how we bring what is unconscious into consciousness.
Brantley asks us to be mindful of how we feel in the seconds before we are angry. To ask ourselves as anger begins to flare:
• What am I afraid of?
• Is there any real danger present?
Believe it or not this works! By focusing on my fear rather than the symptom the anger that threatens to consume me dissipates quickly and I am free to understand what is happening in an open and curious way.
I wish I would have known this as a parent, I might have helped my children avoid developing their own personal “fixed belief”. As a grandparent when one of my grandchildren becomes angry I do not:
• Tell them to stop
• Ask what they are angry about or
• "What is wrong?"
I ask them what they are afraid of and, as with me, having their anger identified as a symptom of fear they are free to talk about their fear and to cry rather than punch their sibling.
This is not an easy or quick process so please to not assume it to be. It is a process worth engaging.
I am offering this piece of insight not as an expert. I offer it as a parent and grandparent in hopes that it will help other parents on their personal journeys.